10 Terrific Birthday Traditions That Will Delight Your Kids

“Mama – why do we have birthday parties?”

“Well, we love you so much and we’re so very glad you were born and so we celebrate that day.”

“Oh… and so we can have cake?”

Well, don’t underestimate the importance of cake… 

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions

1.Have a compliment time.

What a great way to surround a birthday kid (or grown-up) with love!

Kelly: Our favorite birthday tradition is the compliment time we do on the birthday person’s birthday dinner. We go around and around saying all the things we love about the person and they just accept it they can’t say no or I’m not that great, they can just say thank you.

Little Hearts Books: Blow up a ton of balloons and write something special about them on each one, then fill the hallway outside their bedroom door with the balloons so when they wake up in the morning and walk out, they’re greeted with a really special start to their day


2. Have a special way to wake up.

It could be as simple as singing happy birthday right away or inviting your child to snuggle with you and look at baby pictures first  thing.  Here are a couple more wake up traditions:

Elizabeth: We start every birthday by waking up the birthday boy or girl with a “Long John” or doughnut with a birthday candle and the “happy birthday” song. We always take a picture with the birthday boy or girl and their Long John (which has lead to some crazy morning hair pictures)!

Eileen: When my kids go to sleep the night before their birthday, I’ll decorate their doorway with streamers and balloons so when they open the door in the morning they have a whole celebration to walk through. My teenage son is starting to lose his patience for this little tradition LOL!

3. Let your child pick dinner…the cake…breakfast:

My kids pick what kind of cake they’ll have. One year we had a stack of marshmallows (which we took out back and roasted)!  One year my son asked for a “Strawberry Elephant Cake” which was only accomplished because I had a tiny elephant cookie cutter and cut sliced strawberries into the elephant shape.

10 Terrifc Brithday Traditions you can Start Any Year - cakes, songs and more

Barbara: “The younger grand kids go with me and we pick out a cake to bake and decorate together. I than cook their favorite meal. My 19 yr old daughter and I always buy a Dairy Queen ice cream cake and just the two of us eat the entire cake. It does take us a few days to eat the cake. We do this on her birthday and on mine.”

Jessica: The big deal at my house is that the birthday kid gets to eat anything he wants for dinner. The little ones are usually easy… Like Mac and Cheese. But the older ones are always after homemade sushi:)

Sarah A birthday crown and the Seuss birthday book, which we only wear and read on that day. A special breakfast of whatever he chooses. And cupcakes!

4. Make a memory keepsake of the year

These are the sort of traditions that stress me out when I think “But I didn’t start when they were a baby!”  Or “What if I do this a couple years and then not on others??”  But really, even doing these things only one or two times adds some very special keepsakes.  My son will have a letter from me from his first birthday, and a list of questions he answered this year for his eighth, with just pictures in between, and that’s fine.  I trust he’ll like the little gems he gets.

Rhonda: We put a picture of our son in a black frame with a very large matting around it. We display it at the party and ask all of our guests to write a small note to our little man. He now has a small collection of frames displayed in his room with special memories written on each one!

Kim: I take photos from each month and special occasions and put them in a collage poster (costco 7 dollars) I hang up the ones from the earlier years at the party too. It is a simple and easy way to view each year. And the guests always love to see them.

5. Have a Treasure Hunt!

How I set up a treasure hunt: I write the last clue first that leads to the present and hide the present there, then I write the next clue before that and hide that clue, then the one before that – working backwards until I have a beginning clue to put into an envelope.  This year we gave our son a Magic Set (Amazon affilaite) (perfect for an 8 year old, he’s been too cute with it so far…), so I had fun with the magic theme by making his clues on the backs of playing card.  It doesn’t take long.  And if you don’t want to write clues you can also try the fun hot/cold idea below.

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions - treasure hunts

Do you have golden birthdays?  When you turn the same age as the day of your birthday, like turning 8 on the 8th?  

Rachel:  I have a treasure hunt game for them to find their presents in the morning…Eg…”go to the sweetest place in the house”…they would then find the next clue near the sugar bowl..it would then have another clue etc. etc. I would do this about 10 times before the final reveal of where the presents are. Sometimes there would be presents along the way with the next clue taped to it.

Megan: My Mom started playing hot cold with my gifts. She would hide them all over the house. I used to love this and it makes the opening of gifts last longer. I’m excited to do this with my son when he’s older.

6. Make a birthday crown

This can be made of fabric or felt (you can find adorable fabric crowns on Etsy.)  Or you can simply make one out of paper.  It could even be a birthday party activity – you cut out the crowns and let the kids decorate.

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions you can Start Any Year

7. Recite a special birthday chant.
Maybe you sing Happy Birthday, maybe not, but what if your family has their own twist on this tradition?

Kim: I don’t know but I’ve been told, Someone here is ____years old.  Bad news is we sing off key!  Good news is we sing for free! Happy (happy) Birthday (birthday) Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!

Mary Price My family has a tradition that’s at least five generations old. After singing Happy Birthday and before blowing out the candles the whole family recites the following poem: “Many happy returns to the day of thy birth, many seasons of joy be given, and may our dear Father prepare you on earth for a beautiful birthday in Heaven.” Then we clap and chant 1…2…3…etc, up to the celebrant’s age. (It’s a lot of clapping at a grandparent’s birthday!)

 8. Have special decorations just for birthdays.

We have a fabric birthday banner we hang every year.  It’s come with us to parks and grandparent’s houses.

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions you can Start Any Year

9. Make a special event that’s just for your family.

Traditions should come out of what your family really loves – don’t continue things that don’t work.  Your family could enjoy something as small as a hike, a bowling trip, or as big as a trip to Hawaii, but they should suit your family, not what your friends or in-laws love.

Helen  I don’t know if we will keep this up, but our current tradition (started at The beginning of last year) is a family trip bowling and then out for cake on the afternoon of the persons birthday… Ds1 was 3 when we started this and we did it for all family members… (Me, dh and him so far)…

Jennifer: The 10th bday is big in our family. You can only add a digit 2x in your life, 10 & 100. We take a big trip somewhere none of us has ever been before. We start talking about it when they turn 8. Have to make a decision when they turn 9 so mom & dad can make plans and save some money. For my son’s 10th birthday we went to Honolulu, HI. It takes lots of planning but is so much fun. My 6 yr old is already thinking about where he wants to go. Can’t wait to see where we end up.

10. Embrace Calamity.

Some of the best birthday traditions are born out birthday disasters.  One time when we were kids my mom was sick in bed on my birthday.  We had birthday parties on the bed for years after that because it was so much fun.

Barb: For something that became just a silly family tradition, one year we forgot candles on someone’s birthday. My husband went and got his big red Mag-lite & ‘illuminated’ the cake that way (the bbq grill lighter has also been used) but that has become the family tradition. No candles — a flashlite or lighters

Add your own tradition!  What delights your kids on their birthdays? Scroll down to leave a comment.


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  1. says

    When I was a kid my parents woudl always wake me up and make me a cup of hot chocolate – I loved it so much I decided to greet the birthday girl/boy the same way! :)

    • says

      We’ve done roasting marshmallows at two birthday parties for the kids and it’s been a lot of fun to have everyone out back around the fire. And of course, teaching kids to roast the perfect marshmallow is one of those parenting Must Dos 😉

  2. says

    Beautiful post! I’ve fallen in love with making customized banners, too! A tradition we’ve started which the kids get a kick out of- is they request that I make a quilled paper art piece of them doing something relevant to their bday party theme. Our son wanted to be Superman but with an L in place of the S. Our daughter wants me to make the piece of her in a fashion outfit she designs. Kind of an odd tradition, but they are so proud that they are featured in a piece of art. ha!

  3. says

    What a great post- I love the idea of making special little traditions around birthdays! Gorgeous ideas- some we already do, others we’d like to include! Actually, going around the table complimenting the bday person is a tradition that randomly started in my family and we still do it- I’m 37 and my youngest brother is 23!!( five kids and our parents!!!) we often end up in hysterics as we might include some funny things the bday person has done too! :-)

  4. says

    We have a special festive birthday plate for each kiddo that has their name and birth date painted around the edge. They only use it on their birthday. I hope when they are older, their special plates will trigger fond memories of childhood birthday celebrations.

  5. says

    What a lovely post showing you don’t have to go to extremes to make your children’s birthday special. For birthdays around our house, we have a “yes” day for the birthday child. That child gets to choose what we do during the day and we say yes to whatever we can.

    I love the fabric birthday banner. I might have to make one for our family.

  6. Kristal Jacobs says

    My mom had a special coloring book and each year I would color the next page and write my name and age on it. My daughter’s room is Wizard of Oz, so I got a special coloring book before she was born and my husband and I colored the first page in the hospital together.

  7. Lindsay says

    LOVE the coloring book idea!!!

    Every year for my son’s birthday I have bought a special reading book. I bring it to the birthday party and have all of the guests sign it with a message for the birthday boy! He now has six birthday books, we read the books and messages all the time :)

  8. says

    There are lots of great ones here. I particularly love the treasure hunt. We got those when my parents would go out of town, but it’s a great idea to do on vacation. One I loved was packages for the number of years you are. They can be tiny things, but special treats (a favorite cereal, a mango, a poem), but the key is that there are lots of little packages greeting them.

  9. Maria says

    At my house- the kids get as many presents as they are old.  So, if you are 5- you get 5 presents.  My mom did this until I was 18, and I loved it.  The kids love it too.  When I got older, the presents would be interesting. Sometimes I would get shampoo, or a pack of gum… anything to fill up the amount of presents! :)

    My kids love it, and it makes it easier on the “she got more presents than I did” because 3 of my kids birthdays are within 2 weeks of eachother.

    We also do the “pick what you want for dinner”  we had turkey sandwiches once. :) They have never asked to go out to a restaurant though!

  10. ElisabethPYT says

    I decorate the child’s room with streamers, so he or she wakes up to streamers filling the room and doorway. They also get balloons and little presents the number of years old they are. They also get a special breakfast on a special plate (red hand-painted with white hearts). I let them choose what is for dinner. I have just started reading the book ‘On the Night You Were Born’ to them   http://www.putmeinthestory.com/personalized-books/on-the-night-you-were-born.html?gclid=CP_k7amD1MMCFY17fgodlKEAhw  and telling them of their birth and what a joy, gift, and answer to prayer they are. They love it when I say, ‘Why in the was I given such a wonderful girl (or boy)? I am so lucky, blessed that I get to be your mom.’ etc…

  11. Heather Jacobs says

    We like to give experiences as gifts instead of toys like tickets to discovery science center, the zoo, or something like that.

  12. dianadoinggoodtogether says

    Doing Good Together™ offers a unique ebook filled with ideas on how to turn a birthday party into a charitable giving event. http://www.doinggoodtogether.org/store/12-fun-creative-birthday-parties-that-give-back

  13. nancyjohn2010 says

    What a fun idea!!! Even if you didn’t send it, I can think of other fun ways to use this idea at home with my kids. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

    <a href=”http://ideal-gifts-tips.blogspot.com/2013/06/some-remarkable-ideas-for-anniversary.html”>anniversary gift</a>

  14. Jill says

    I wanted to make my son’s 10th birthday extra special. his gift was coming in the mail, so he only had a couple of little things to open on the actual day and I wanted to extend the opening fun. So, I took a dollar store “Happy Birthday” banner and cut it up and put each letter on a colorful envelope. Inside there was a note explaining what the gift was and it corresponded with each banner letter. Some envelopes were attached to a wrapped small gift, and some had pictures of the things coming in the mail (like B had a pic of the Bike that was coming later.) Some were not gifts, but cards, or best wishes. For example- H was attached to a party Hat that his sister decorated, T was “Ten things we love about you” Y was “Your bday card.” It was fun to try to find something small for a couple of letters. I got a “yo yo” for the second Y. My son loved it and it was so fun to watch!

  15. says

    Our 4 children had a party every second year and they could invite as many friends as their age.At night before they went to bed I would always say”goodnight 4 year old” or whatever age they were and in the morning”good morning 5 year old!” They always received gifts from each other at every birthday and Christmas and home made cards. They are in their twenties and thirties now and I still text them or say it if I see them the day before etc.

  16. says

    Thanks Alissa for the great ideas.. I will try them on my son’s next birthday..
    Usually I give personalized gifts and books to my son..
    I also decorate his room with his funny pictures that I used to collect whole year..
    This makes him surprised.
    Apart from this, sometimes I also take him on the vacations.

  17. Col says

    I love some of the ideas and will use some along with what we already do…
    The birthday girl/boy has a cupcake at breakfast with single candle. I have a stand that has inter-changeable numbers so their age can be put out alongside the cupcake.
    From here the birthday is themed – fav sporting team (Dockers), Pirates, Dr Who, Black Tie, Star Wars etc – and has a colour.
    • Helium Balloons with a weight at the bottom. These are always fun but you need to look for the theme early as sometimes it take time to find what you want.
    • A present of course and this usually sets the theme!
    • Handmade card that matches with the theme and colour
    • Birthday Cake – you guessed it themed!
    I take cake and balloons to my partner’s work. He is no longer embarrassed and his colleagues look forward to his celebration. Each year I make a different type of cake as well. I mix things up with picks and shaped cakes.

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